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March 15, 2013

Security

Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy in Mali

March 4, 2013 by

If Washington continues to avoid direct engagement in Mali there remains a possibility that Mali’s instability could spread throughout West Africa and to the greater region. There is some evidence of this in Nigeria with the growth of Boko Haram. Mali’s internal strife not only represents a threat to Mali and its neighbors but the fragile state of intra-African politics. The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are engaged in Mali with ECOWAS dedicated to the restoration of democracy and the AU committed to preserving the territorial integrity of Mali.

So far the Obama administration has not made any official commitments regarding direct military relief in Mali aside from limited support in the form of ferrying supplies to the region. Adding further urgency, various insurgency groups and Islamists are joining forces in some instances. Organizations such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Polisario Front, Ansar Dine, and Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) represent a network of terrorist and separatist movements whose combined actions characterize a growing threat to the economic and political development of the region. There are links that bind these movements together like ideology, tribalism, ethnicity, politics, and religion. Mali’s fate is just another piece of the puzzle in resolving issues in West Africa but Washington refuses to address the dynamic relationship between these guerilla conflicts. Reaffirming Mali’s progress towards democracy is the first step that U.S. foreign policy needs to take to resolve Mali’s and the region’s chaos.

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Policing National Security Threats

February 7, 2013 by

President Barack Obama meets with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in the Oval Office, May 9, 2011. Pete Souza/White House

Organizations that threaten national security have become increasingly advanced, both technologically and strategically, causing normal policing tactics to become outdated and ineffective. Adapting policing strategies to combat a modern asymmetrical foe could alleviate the bombardment of national security threats compromised by criminal and terrorist organizations.

The establishment of a myriad of intelligence and law enforcement agencies has met challenges that arise as a result of domestic and international threats, and national security enforcement agencies have been organized to target and combat these threats.  The public perception of national security threats are often associated with issues ranging from narcotics and weapons smuggling to terrorist attacks and human smuggling.

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Security Firms seek inroads in Mali

February 1, 2013 by

Tuareg tribesman in Mali. Image via Al Jazeera

The British security firm G4S is set to rake in massive profits thanks to crises in Mali, Libya and Algeria. Recognized as the world’s biggest security firm, the group’s brand plummeted during the London Olympics last year due to its failure to satisfy conditions of a government contract. But with growing unrest in North and West Africa, G4S is expected to make a speedy recovery.

The January 16th hostage crisis at Algeria’s Ain Amenas gas plant, where 38 hostages were killed, ushered in the return of al-Qaeda not as extremists on the run, but as well-prepared militants with the ability to strike deeply into enemy territories and cause serious damage. For G4S and other security firms, this also translates into growing demands. “The British group (..) is seeing a rise in work ranging from electronic surveillance to protecting travelers,” the company’s regional president for Africa told Reuters. “Demand has been very high across Africa,” Andy Baker said. “The nature of our business is such that in high-risk environments the need for our services increases.”

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Mali: U.S. Must Enforce Aid Accountability

January 28, 2013 by

French soldiers at an airbase in Bamako, Mali. Arnaud Roine/EPA

It is critical to stability in the Maghreb and the Sahel region that terrorism in Mali be dealt with, both militarily and politically. The current situation in Mali cannot be separated from the issues in the Maghreb and the Sahel.

Extremists are breaking down the traditional tribal cultural bonds that have held society together in the Sahel region. This breakdown has far-reaching consequences for future generations. If we do not begin to reverse this trend immediately, we will have an exponentially greater problem to deal with in the near future, and much more serious long-term effects. It is critical that we apply equal pressure across the entire region in order to deal with terrorism.

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The Next American Crusade: The U.S. Military Campaign in Africa

January 14, 2013 by

Despite upcoming deep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, the United States has embarked on a military campaign in Africa. Confidential sources inside AFRICOM (the United States military’s Africa Command) spoke of a large increase of materials and manpower making its way to Africa in early 2011.  The past year saw a very quiet and concerted effort on the part of the administration to continue the U.S. military and intelligence build up on the continent.

The latest announcement of an additional three to five thousand troops was accompanied by several conditions and caveats meant to ease any doubt that the troops are there to assist in counterterrorism operations. This is remarkable noting the impending budget crunch the military will endure, the constant down-play by the administration of the condition of Al Qaeda and the overall resistance to venture into another armed conflict.

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Austrian Defense Spending and Stalingrad

January 10, 2013 by

For the first time in my living memory, the Austrian Federal Army is front-page news on Austrian papers and is debated heatedly on public television. Riding a populist crest but lacking the foresight of any clear direction, Vienna Mayor Michael Hauepl, Federal Chancellor Werner Feymann, and Minister for Defense and Sport Norbert Darabos are calling all Austrians to the polls to decide the future of national defense in Austria. In a bizarre reversal of their historical positions, the socialist SPOE favors the establishment of an all-volunteer military force, whereas the conservative OEVP firmly defends mandatory military conscription. Rather than try objectively to debate this issue and reach an agreement, both parties cowardly escaped by enlisting the Austrian people to determine the future of the Austrian Federal Army.

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The Iran Nuclear Debate

January 3, 2013 by

Over the last few months, there has been much public discussion surrounding the increasing likelihood of an Israeli pre-emptive strike upon Iran, as part of a broader strategy to halt the Iranian government’s supposed nuclear weapons programme.

Recently this talk has been muted by Israel’s latest attempts to ‘pacify’ the Gaza Strip, though as far as Israel’s strategic defence is concerned, an Iranian nuclear deployment is a far more dangerous ball game. Or is it? This article aims to purport a convincing argument to the contrary, that Iranian nuclear ambitions are not as great a threat as supposed, and may even be welcome. However, this article also serves to warn of the consequences should a military solution to remove this alleged threat be undertaken, and principally argues that the cost of action is likely to be far greater than restraint.

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Red Lines and Syria’s Chemical Weapons

December 15, 2012 by

While the Obama administration has for many months stressed the need to give diplomacy another chance to work in Syria, the administration has now decided that if Assad were to employ his vast chemical weapons stockpile against the rebels, the U.S. would have no choice but to intervene in the nearly two-year old conflict. Fears about the potential fallout of the demise of the Assad regime are running high, as a post-Assad Syria could likely degenerate into a sectarian civil war that would make Iraq look like a picnic, given the complex religious and ethic fabric of Syrian society.

With the rebels making significant advances throughout Syria, and inching closer to the heart of Damascus, the fear is that Assad could launch chemical weapon attacks against rebel positions in a bid to halt their advance. Employing chemical weapons is not a precision game – numerous factors would impact the success or failure of their use, including prevailing winds. Collateral damage would likely be immeasurable, essentially constituting mass murder on a scale not witnessed in decades. Assad could be using the threat of chemical weapons as a bargaining chip to secure more preferential terms, should he decide to flee – which is becoming increasingly likely.

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Rockets and Pyongyang

December 11, 2012 by

North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket. Image via ABC News

There is a lot of noise at the moment on the Korean Peninsula. One might argue that there always is, but on this occasion, interest is centered on whether the DPRK will test a new disguised ballistic missile, ostensibly to launch a satellite into space sometime this month.  Officially, the test has been pushed back to December 29th. South Korean sources claim that the delay was occasioned by a faulty component in the Unha-3 rocket.

What a busy month this is proving to be. The first anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il, to be marked on December 17th; the South Korean presidential elections, slated for December 19th; and the Japanese elections on December 16th. Add to this the arrival of China’s new leader Xi Jinping, and we have a considerable fruit salad of variables.

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African Union Peace Operations

December 10, 2012 by

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established in 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. African leaders adopted a new charter in 2001 and the OAU became the African Union (AU). The principal organs of the AU are the Assembly, the most important component that consists of the heads of state and government from each of the 54 member states.  The Assembly meets twice a year. The Executive Council consists of ministerial-level representatives from each country and is responsible to the Assembly. The Commission is the secretariat that has a permanent staff and handles the day-to-day management of the AU.

The Peace and Security Council is a 15-member elected body that manages strategic and operational decisions related to conflict. The Peace and Security Council began operations in 2004 as “a collective security and early-warning arrangement to facilitate timely and efficient response to conflict and crisis situations in Africa.”

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US Leaders Sending Mixed Messages on Afghanistan

December 6, 2012 by

After more than a decade at war, The United States’ leaders are still unable to decide on a single policy in Afghanistan, with some still searching for reasons to stay while others are ready to move on.

On one side, the U.S. Senate, in a notable show of bipartisanship, voted 62-33 last week to accelerate the withdrawal of the remaining U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan ahead of the official 2014 drawdown date.  The measure’s sponsor, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), argued that Al Qaeda’s influence in Afghanistan is minimal, and that counterterrorism operations should focus on terrorist strongholds elsewhere.

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Long-term Peace in Gaza Depends on Egypt

November 26, 2012 by

The newly elected President of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, confronted his greatest challenge to date in brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Gaza last week – and by almost all accounts, he passed with flying colors.  The agreement ended nearly two weeks of intense violence on both sides, which resulted in more than one hundred and fifty deaths and thousands of wounded. Conducted under the auspices of the Egyptian government, the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel will provide welcome relief to both sides of the conflict. However, it still remains only a temporary measure.

The issues at the heart of the conflict – the Israeli imposed siege of Gaza and the rampant smuggling operations caused thereby – have not yet been addressed.

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UK Seeks to Strengthen Middle East Ties

November 13, 2012 by

The recent announcement that Britain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signed a defense partnership, which could include military sales from BAE (BA.L), EADS (EADS: NV), and Finmeccanica (FNC.MI) indicates that Britain is seeking to strengthen economic as well as diplomatic ties with its Middle Eastern partners to facilitate regional security and to counter the growing threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to the region also focused on addressing recent diplomatic dustups, which have called into question some of Britain’s energy investments in the region, specifically British Petroleum oil concessions in the UAE.

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India Strengthens the Alliance of Cyber Democracies

November 5, 2012 by

India’s agreement with Japan to cooperate on cybersecurity at the recent “2+2” of Secretaries of Defence and External Affairs of each country has a distinctly strategic and military connotation. The move represents a deepening of India’s strategic engagement with the global network of the alliance of democracies with the United States at the core. More specifically, it brings India a step closer to joining the inner circle of that alliance that is involved in signals intelligence and joint cyber defense of a military character.

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Convergence of US and Chinese interests on African Security? The Case of the Two Sudans

November 2, 2012 by

Liberian children hold Chinese flags before the arrival of China’s President Hu Jintao in Monrovia in 2007. Christopher Herwig/Reuters via Reuters

There has been intense interest in and outright alarm expressed by western civil society and governments on the rapidly increasing Chinese presence in almost all spheres in African life. Many articles paint a picture of a saintly west and a demonic China in Africa, charging the Chinese on the hearsay evidence of abuse of African workers and poor Chinese workmanship of roads and infrastructure projects. The Chinese focus on resources and infrastructure and its pragmatic and self-interest motivated policy of non-interference in domestic affairs is paraded as the smoking gun of Chinese responsibility for a range of African ills from unemployment here in Cape Town where I write, to the Darfur genocide.

The intense interest by the west in China-Africa relations - arguably a natural development of the globalization process - betrays a deep seated unease on the part of the west as Chinese companies, government and Chinese models of development are shown to be more adaptable, better liked and more suitable in Africa compared to the western counterparts.

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